STATEMENT – The Saint Lucia Labour Party notes that the President of the Civil Service Association, Ms Mary Isaac, has recommended that the Government of Saint Lucia increase the rate of VAT from 15 percent to 17 percent in order to deal with the fiscal crisis facing the country.
The SLP believes that Ms Isaac’s proposal has no consideration for the people of Saint Lucia. Ms. Isaac must confront the truth that the first step to correcting the fiscal deficit has to start with cutting back and controlling expenditure in the public service, and that the single highest item of expenditure is wages. Neither government nor the public service can deny that fact.
The Labour Party refuses to engage in the blame game, which is being played by opponents of the present government. The SLP knows what most other Saint Lucians know, that this situation has little to do with the last two and a half years.
Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony was forthright in his address to the nation on June 10, 2014 when he said: “For some time now, government has been spending much more than it collects in revenue. The result is that government has had to borrow more and more money to finance its operations. Unfortunately, more of government’s revenue has had to be directed towards paying salaries to public servants and repaying its debt…. So, the most important and urgent question we have to answer is how do we slow down the growth of public debt?”
Mary Isaac’s suggestion to increase VAT does not address this critical matter and therefore does not represent a solution to the problem.
The SLP believes that it is a fact that the fiscal problem which faces Saint Lucia is caused primarily by excessive expenditure on salaries and wages in the public service. Obviously Mary Isaac believes that the burden must fall on the people of the country to fix a problem that has been caused primarily by excessive expenditure in the public service.
Her position is that it is too much for the CSA members to accept what workers in hotels, in construction and other areas of employment have had to accept, in order to help the country avoid disaster and to avoid the need to retrench hundreds of public servants. Instead the CSA president believes that every Saint Lucian must be made to pay for the excesses of the public service.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party does not believe that increasing VAT is the solution to our fiscal challenges. It is unfair to impose additional taxation on the people of Saint Lucia when they have had to bear the burden of adjustments to the economy. Over the past few months, some workers have had to accept wage freezes and retrenchment as companies seek to deal with their individual challenges.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party urges Mary Isaac to put aside her inflexible attitude to the government and its prime minister and put the interests of the country and its people first and foremost.